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PM Address To American Chamber of Commerce

Rt Hon Helen Clark Prime Minister

Address at American Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

Hyatt Hotel Auckland

7.00 pm

Wednesday 17 November 2004

Congratulations to all the finalists and winners tonight.

Your success is New Zealand’s success. These awards honour your innovation and creativity, and your sheer hard work at promoting trade with the demanding United States market.

The US market is very important to New Zealand, and it has been since our early pioneering days. It is New Zealand’s second largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth more than $NZ8 billion per annum.

In the year to June 2004, New Zealand’s exports to the US were worth $4.2 billion, close to 15 per cent of the total value of New Zealand’s exports. We imported $3.9 billion worth of goods from the US. I note with pleasure the small trade surplus in New Zealand's favour!

The United States is also our third largest investment partner, both in terms of Kiwi investment overseas and US investment here. American companies operating in New Zealand account for more than NZ$12 billion of investment and many thousands of jobs.

New Zealand has welcomed the news of a free trade agreement between the United States and Australia. We are well placed to take advantage of any resulting economic growth and we will continue to work in Washington on opening bilateral negotiations between the United States and New Zealand.

The US Administration is well aware of our interest, and we will continue to deploy our diplomatic and other resources to build on our already considerable support in the United States. An FTA with the United States offers potential economic benefits for both parties. There are also the broader strategic benefits to us of having strong links with not only the world's largest economy, but also with a great source of investment capital and innovation.

Tomorrow I leave for APEC in Santiago. There I will have the opportunity to talk to President Bush and congratulate him in person on his election victory. I will also reaffirm New Zealand’s interest in an even closer trading relationship with the US.

A successful WTO Round remains the top trade policy priority for both New Zealand and the United States. As well, New Zealand has significant bilateral and regional initiatives underway. While at APEC, the Chinese President Hu Jintao and I will meet to launch formal negotiations on the proposed NZ-China FTA. Soon New Zealand also hopes to announce the successful conclusion of the FTA negotiations with Thailand.

Other initiatives include the agreement with Malaysia to study an FTA, and the continuation of the “P3” negotiations with Chile and Singapore. Later this month in Laos, it is expected that the leaders of ASEAN and of New Zealand and Australia will agree to launch FTA negotiations. Over the medium to longer term there are some exciting prospects.

The government looks forward to working with the business community to raise the level of awareness about the new opportunities opening up and the level of readiness to take advantage of them.

Critical to New Zealand's future success is the development of innovative goods and services which can command high prices in world markets. So we all take pleasure in seeing New Zealand companies developing revolutionary concepts and world-beating technology, and featuring at major showcases events in the US.

New Zealand’s presence in San Francisco in June at the world’s biotechnology industry’s showpiece, BIO 2004, was our largest ever. Led by Research, Science and Technology Minister Pete Hodgson, 33 New Zealand companies attended – double that of the previous year – reflecting the fact that New Zealand’s biotechnology industry is one of the world’s fastest growing.

Eleven New Zealand companies were represented in Los Angeles at SIGGRAPH 2004 – the international conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. New Zealand is at the forefront of developments in digital animation and visual effects, as was evident in the technology behind Lord of the Rings.

The stunning success of the LOTR's films has thrust our computer graphics technology companies into the international spotlight. A special panel session at the SIGGRAPH conference included representatives from Academy-Award-winning, visual effects facility, WETA Digital; software developer Right Hemisphere; Sci-Tech Award-winning software developer Massive; and several other high-flying New Zealand companies which are continuing to develop amazing innovations in digital media technology and visual effects.

The 3rd Annual ANZA Technology Network Conference held in California in late October also highlighted Kiwi success stories. This conference exclusively showcased New Zealand and Australian technology and innovation, and offered important networking opportunities in the US.

Other Kiwi companies are establishing a local presence in the key US export market through the help of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Beachheads programme. This initiative helps exporters develop business in the US with a cost-effective mechanism for companies to establish a physical presence there. For instance, the Fort Lauderdale office in Florida gives New Zealand marine companies a vital base in a key port.

Our marine industry has been powering ahead, boosted by our past America’s Cup success. We are now among the world’s top 10 largest producers of superyachts, and the hardware and accessories side of the industry is growing ahead of the boat sales. Our total marine industry exports are now worth about NZ$525 million annually. In the year to June, New Zealand’s marine industry exported $125 million worth of yachts and boats to the US alone, a 235 per cent rise on the previous 12 months.

In other sectors, proud New Zealand companies, like Fisher and Paykel, are demonstrating their ability to compete with and succeed against the best products on offer in the world’s biggest market, the US.

Its important that more New Zealand companies do think globally, and are able to be benchmarked alongside the world’s best New Zealand companies are pragmatic and flexible, and quick to see where they can best add value or inventive solutions to produce outstanding results.

Tonight we celebrate the success of those companies prospering in the United States market and showing the way forward for others. Their future is our future, and their success is New Zealand’s success. May our companies continue to succeed in the US market.

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